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Building War using Lego

By Rose Cunningham

My childhood was filled with moments of building Lego with my brother. We would spend hours constructing houses, streets, towns and even entire empires. We sometimes bickered in the planning stages over what our street should look like - "it was my idea”. But we always managed to build together harmoniously. Until one day, I decided that I wanted control - so I took it. I transferred my brother's structure into what I wanted-- I denied him freedom and autonomy. At that time, I didn’t understand how the insatiable desire for control can lead to destruction.

The desire for control is inherent in human nature. Often, to achieve this, we create laws, establish timetables and make decisions about who we hire and why. But what happens when the desire for control extends beyond the individual? What if it is held by the president of a military superpower?

The consequences are grave: war, anarchy, genocide, violence and terrorism.

We have continuously beared witness to the repercussions of greed. Hitler’s pursuit of control resulted in the systematic extermination of 6 million Jewish people. But contributions to war, did not stop in 1945, arms race along national borders signal a readiness for invasion. Laws governing women’s bodies are becoming increasingly restrictive in many parts of the world.

While children easily adapt as my brother and I did with our Lego colours- we settled on blue and red, adults seem incapable of letting go of control. No compromise- only control. As we grow up, we thrust into a political vacuum, and as the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum.

101 years ago, Russia started building the house that would later belong to Ukraine. However, Ukraine wanted its own design using different bricks. It never stole Russia's base plate but created its own streets, cities and towns, with a Lego Minifigure President. Russia wasn't happy. Russia taught Ukraine how to build, but 20 years after Ukraine built its own Lego empire, on February 24th 2022, an assault was launched - systematically tearing the nation down, dismantling brick by brick.

Power is complex. Some believe it is okay to be seized, while others advocate for its distribution, but the common agreement is that power should not be concentrated in the hands of a few. In pursuit of control, leaders of certain countries, especially those with long and often complicated pasts, some with recurring military conflict, seek to surpass previous leaders by diminishing the achievements of the past, for example by “Making America Great Again” or regaining former European territory recognised as independent since 1991. When the repercussions of World War I wreaked havoc on Germany, the desire for control led to a rise in extremism. Ukraine gained independence from Russia, and once again, anger and the insatiable thirst for power ignited another war.

This isn't just about plastic bricks and minifigures, but about real people, people who are forced to flee their own Lego brick homes. This is about the detrimental impacts on the lives of others, all because someone wants control.

Russia decided, based on the ethical principles of contractarianism, Ukraine was Russian and therefore bound by the former Soviet Union contract to remain and obey. However, Ukraine’s independence and the fall of the USSR rendered that contract invalid. Ethicists might consider the deontological ideals. It’s not the action which makes it wrong or right, permissible or illegal, but the underlying motive. But ethical considerations will not solve this war. Russia attempted to justify invasion, claiming their intent was to ‘save’ Ukraine, much like American interventions for peacekeeping.

Humans yearn for control, power, knowledge and security. But, like the Lego bricks on my carpet, which stuck to any passer-bys’ feet, some level of control is okay. It is when this desire for control outweighs its benefits, it becomes a question not of intent but the consequences and who suffers the most as a result.

So, to control or not to control, that is the question.



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